Responses to the HIV epidemic leading to an increase in the number of residential care facilities for children across sub-Saharan Africa have prompted concerns that large numbers of orphaned children are being placed in institutional care. There is little empirical research into the role that institutions are playing in the provision of care to children affected by HIV in the region. This paper draws on an exploratory study of the provision of residential care for children in the context of the HIV epidemic in South Africa. The analysis characterises the population of children in a small sample of residential care facilities in four provinces, and, after identifying a disproportionate number of HIV-positive children in care, examines the circumstances that led to their admission and the nature of HIV-related interventions in the facilities. The analysis reveals missed opportunities for non-institutional placements for HIV-positive children and identifies important gaps in the HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support interventions within the facilities. The article argues that a global and local preoccupation with orphans as being the children most severely affected by HIV, and as the primary category of children requiring alternative care as a result of the HIV epidemic, may have diverted attention away from the extent to which HIV-positive children populate institutions in South Africa. Furthermore, we suggest that adjustments are required to both decisionmaking regarding placement of HIV-positive children requiring alternative care and the provision of HIV-related interventions in residential facilities in order to ensure an adequate response to children’s health and wellbeing.
Keywords: alternative care; child welfare; HIV-positive children; institutional care; orphans and vulnerable children; social services
African Journal of AIDS Research 2010, 9(2): 107–115